The rightwing Bayit Yehudi party blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with a top insider saying that Netanyahu "is trying to destroy the party and lay the groundwork for a coalition with the Zionist Camp" – a center-left political bloc currently hoping to oust Netanyahu from government.
The Bayit Yehudi is considered to occupy a niche to the right of Netanyahu's Likud party. However, the upcoming elections have seen the party shift slightly to the center in an attempt to rebrand themselves as a potential alternative to the Likud.
Nonetheless, Naftali Bennett, the party's chairman, has said he would support the prime minister in forming the next government. Now the party is claiming Netanyahu does not really want their support, and hopes to form a leftwing government with rival Zionist Camp instead.
"Netanyahu wants a leftwing government," the top party official said, despite opposing claims by Netanyahu, who slammed this report as "false," saying there is no such rift between the two parties.
However, recent days have shown that the two parties' non-aggression pact has come to an end as each try to steal the other's base ahead the March 17 elections.
In Israel's political system, governing coalitions are formed from political blocs comprised of different parties, leading many voters to contemplate whether they want to vote a large party to better its odds at forming the next government, or vote for a smaller party and increase its relative strength.
Bennett hopes to benefit from the assumption that Netanyahu will form the next government by enticing voters to help enlarge his party's size and force Netanyahu to form a coalition with them.
Yedioth Ahronoth learned that Bayit Yehdi is disappointed by Netanyahu's recent actions: "He's hurting the chances of a rightwing government," a top source said, while a close confidant of Bennett said "Netanyahu is firing inside a tank."
Bennett even told party officials that Netanyahu's recent attempt to intervene in the Israel Prize committee, allegedly in a bit to "diversify" the committee in what the attorney general has already decried as political interference, was also an election ploy.
"Even his attack on Israel Prize was born out of an attempt to steal votes from us," Bennett reportedly said.
Party officials say that Netanyahu has taken aim at the predominantly religious Zionist party's voter base – the settlement movement. This week the prime minister visited a prominent West Bank seminary and the week before he volunteered at a semi-religious event, also in the West Bank.
He also sent religious party members to lead a small campaign with rightwing settlers, urging them to "step outside the sector" and vote for Netanyahu.